Wednesday, 29 September 2010

Turning The World Upside Down

On Monday I went to take a look at the new exhibition in Kensington Gardens. Turning The World Upside Down consists of four, highly polished, stainless steel sculptures by Anish Kapoor. I have to confess that I have a large dollop of magpie DNA somewhere in my genetic make up. I love shiny things, not your common or garden bling you understand, but reflective surfaces that disturb and distort the world around them. I can’t pass a convex security mirror without pointing my camera at it, so it was inevitable that this would draw me in.

Two of the pieces are concave mirrors, angled slightly upwards, they are designed to suck in and concentrate the sky. The larger Sky Mirror is around 10.6 metres in diameter and has formerly been set up in New York and Brighton. In London, it’s placed on the east bank of the Long Water where it can take advantage of the setting sun, and even in Mondays watery overcast it was reflecting a constantly changing pattern of light and shade.

The smaller, east facing, Sky Mirror is set a couple of metres into the Round Pond. It has been given a red coating which seems to improve the contrast between sky and cloud (a bit like using a red filter with B&W film perhaps). As well as reflecting a rosy sky, it looks pretty good mirrored on the surface of the pond and stands out beautifully against the backdrop of Kensington Palace.

Non-Object (Spire) is a tall, concave sided, cone. For me, this was (marginally) the least successful of the four pieces. Undeniably beautiful in its own right, I found its reflective qualities a little lacking, although I suspect that a blue sky and some autumnal colours will pretty quickly demolish that opinion.

The final piece is the 7.7 metre wide C-Curve. The convex outer surface gives you a mighty, slightly curvy panorama, dotted with tiny figures and with Kensington Palace in the far, very far, distance. The concave inner surface is a whole different ball game. The images are largely, though by no means wholly, inverted. The landscape is compressed. Figures are stretched and distorted. Moving a foot either backwards or forwards, of from side to side, will change the view completely. It’s difficult to walk away, just in case you’ve missed something……………………but perhaps that’s just me.

Monday was not the day to see them at their best, yet they were still impressive. They will remain in Kensington Gardens until the 13th March, so it will be interesting to see them on blue sky days, autumnal days, winter days, sunset evenings and sunrise mornings. Not to mention the effect of the reds and golds, bare branches and fresh green growth.
I’m lucky, I live near by and I think that I’ll be a frequent visitor. Maybe I’ll see you there!

An Afterthought

In the unlikely event that someone from the Serpentine Gallery or the Royal Parks should read this, could you please do something about the Security Guards. I accept that, sadly, it is necessary to have security, but given the nature of the works would it be possible to provide them with more subdued jackets!

After the Afterthought

Hiding, or disguising, the maintenance vehicles parked by the Sky Mirror would also be greatly appreciated!

There are more pics on my Flickr photostream.

Wednesday, 15 September 2010

Open House and the Pope

I hadn't planned to comment on the Pope's visit to London, after all I'm really not really qualified, either by religion or interest, to do so. However, it turns out that the timing is appalling for London fans.

The 18th and 19th  September is Open House London. Probably the most important weekend of the year for anyone with an interest in the buildings of the Capital. It's your chance to dip into the realms of big business, the law, education, religion and government. To step through the doors of large organisations, to see the glory of the Livery halls and to peep behind the curtains of private dwellings. It is a brilliant event.

The really difficult thing is to plan  how to make the most of each day. Some locations are only open for a few hours, or for only one of the days. Some need to be booked in advance and some are so popular that you need to be prepared to queue, or to have a back up plan and perhaps try again next year!

The fly in the ointment this year is the Pope's visit. Saturday in Central London is likely to be a bit of a 'mare. Road closures and transport diversions in the Victoria area during the day will have a knock on effect on the surrounding areas.

The major road closures around Hyde Park Corner, Marble Arch and Knightsbridge are not due to kick in until 5.00pm but be prepared for the problems to start earlier than that!

About 80,000 "pilgrims" are expected to gather for the vigil in Hyde Park. That's a lot of extra coaches coming into town and a lot of extra bus and tube travellers coming in on an already busy day for the transport system. Check the TFL website for (hopefully) up to date information.

So be aware. Be prepared for the disruption, but most of all, don't let the Pope's visit spoil your enjoyment of an awesome (did I really say awesome :-) event.

Sunday, 12 September 2010

Chinese Birth Signs

Prompted by seeing Bringing the Bones to Life, a project by artist Mark Coreth, details here . A friend mentioned that she was a Tiger and a Leo.

I knew that I was a Capricorn as far as western astrology is concerned, not too much to be excited about there, but had no idea where I fitted in with regards to Chinese tradition, so I thought that I’d better check it out. I had visions of being something powerful and magnificent, yet strangely vulnerable, a rhino perhaps or a blue whale. Imagine my disappointment when I found that I was born in the Year of the Rabbit! Fine creatures though they are, cute, cuddly and a fantastic ingredient for a stew, they really don’t sit well with my own, obviously, inflated vision of me!

It does seem that rabbits do have many redeeming qualities, horoscope wise, but to be honest I care as much about that as I do about being a Capricorn. It’s all nonsense to me. So why do I now feel oddly deflated and completely let down by both eastern and western traditions.

Will I learn to live with it………..probably. Will it forever sit in the back of my mind waiting to hit me on a particularly bad day…………….possibly, or will I forget about it by the end of the week……….most likely.

Catch me on a that bad day to find out!

My photographs or the Circle of Animals/Zodiac Heads by Ai Weiwei can be found here.

There is a great deal about the Chinese Horoscope on the internet, but for a quick run down click here.

Saturday, 11 September 2010

St Katherine's Dock

Today I am at St Katherines Dock For the Thames Revival. This is a jolly affair, part of the two day Thames Festival. The dock is full of classic  sailing boats and cruisers and there are lots of people about dressed in period costumes getting fully into the spirit of the thing, but this is not what I'm writing about today.

The thing is, I thought I was at St Katherine's Dock, but as a friend pointed out this morning, it's not St Katherine's Dock at all. In actual fact these are the St Katharine Docks. A small point perhaps but one that goes to show that I'm not anywhere near as knowledgeable as I  thought  I was. To be fair, my friend, who is probably the most observant person I know, only uncovered this piece of information recently. So I don't feel that bad about it

I was born and have lived in London all my life and I'm still only scratching the surface of this incredible city. As I've got older every trip out has become an adventure. There is always something new (or better still, old) to see and so much to find out

Everything  to learn and so little time to learn it in.................but it is exciting....................isn't it?

Sunday, 5 September 2010

St Paul's Cathedral

I'm posting this from the steps of St Paul's where, once again I have baulked at spending £12.50 to go into a church. I completely understand that these places cost an arm and a leg to maintain and I don't object to making a voluntary donation to help to maintain the fabric of the building but I think it's fundamentally wrong to charge entrance to a place of worship.

I should make my position clear. I don't have any personal religious beliefs, but I do like a church! I like the look of them and I like the feel of them and I like the history associated with them but really it stops there. If I had religious conviction, I'm pretty sure that I would object to an admission charge! Apparently, genuine worshippers do get in free, although I'm not sure exactly how you prove that you are genuine!

I haven't been into St Paul's or Westminster Abbey for many years, which is a real shame, they are both beautiful and fascinating buildings and I have no doubt that I will put aside my principles, hand over the cash and step over the threshold again...........eventually.

I do have another issue with both Westminster and St Paul's. The powers that be don't allow photographs to be taken within their walls. Is it because they want us to buy postcards, slides and books at the inevitable gift shop or is it that the taking of photographs in some way desecrates the sanctity of the building. I don't know, but if it's the latter, there does seem to be some inconsistency within the Church of England. Most churches have no problem with photography. Some of the other Cathedrals charge a modest fee for a "licence" to take pictures, which presumably offsets the losses in the gift shop as well as dealing with the issue of desecration. I don't have a problem with this. I do have a problem with not being able to take photographs at all. I'm a compulsive snapper. I like to record where I have been. This is not for glory or financial gain but in effect records the passage of my life. It is important to me.

Perhaps that is what really niggles me about paying to visit St Paul's. All of the pain, but none of the gain!

As I write this the bells have just started pealing, a wonderful sound..............or it would be if the joker accompanying the Mayors Skyride, which has swamped the City with flourescent clad cyclists, hadn't turned up the volume of his sound system to compete with them.

Oh well, time to move on.